Bud, fairly confident that Einar would be all but incapacitated for a time yet and supposing he would be just about the last person the man would want to see after the little incident with the dart—two of them might come to physical conflict over that one, and if so, seemed only right to wait until the man had full grasp of his faculties—was out on one of his regular rounds of the property when Einar finally made his way down that incredibly long-seeming hallway and into the kitchen. Susan was there, carrying little Will on her hip and talking to him as she busied about adding things to a mixing bowl and checking something in the oven, a series of wonderful and enticing smells assailing Einar as he laboriously pulled himself up so that he could lean on the kitchen island and watch her.
Something about the way the woman carried his son, the soft words with which she narrated for him all of her actions and sought to explain what he was seeing—it reached Einar, reassured him, for a reason which he could not quite explain, that Susan meant no harm either to the little one or to any of them. For which reason, rather than devising a hasty plan to rescue Will, he remained content simply to stay still, and to observe. Which was probably a good thing for a number of reasons, not least amongst which was the rather inconvenient fact that had he attempted any quick motion just then, he almost certainly would have ended up flat on his face on the floor. Was having rather a hard time maintaining his current position, in fact, leaning hard on both elbows but beginning to lose strength in his legs so that he could barely remain standing, and when Liz took an arm and guided him to the floor so he could sit with back against the wall and a good view of the room, he made no objection. Hip wasn’t working right where the avalanche had twisted it, seemed to grate and creak when he moved, and he knew it ought to be hurting a great deal more than it was, at the moment. Certainly had been, before. Must be the dart again.
Scrutinizing the room as well as he could do from his position on the floor, Einar didn’t see his knife or rifle anywhere, and with Kilgore nowhere to be found at the moment, he supposed he’d have to wait if he was to get the weapons back into his hands. The prospect of which was a good deal less onerous than he knew it ought to have been, a lingering result, he expected, of the dart poison in his system. Dreadful stuff. Sapping a man’s energy like that, his very will. Wanted to be angry, compel himself to get up and do something about it, but nothing seemed to be working. So he sat. Waiting. Wished he had a quicker way of loosening the poison’s grip. Seemed to remember that water had helped, before. Plunging his head beneath the icy waters of the creek and watching the fish for a while—though it had nearly done him in, as well as helping, long as it had taken him to remember that he was not in fact an aquatic creature, and must eventually resume breathing—but he couldn’t do that here in this house where he lacked access to creeks, snowbanks and the like, and realizing it, he felt trapped. Would just have to wait for the stuff to run its course, keep as watchful as he was able under the circumstances and pray that no quick action would be required of him until he was once more a bit more able to come through.
Still wished he had his weapons. Wished it even more now that he had resigned himself to what was promising to be something of a lengthy wait, and with a great deal of effort and a hastily suppressed gasp of pain—could begin to feel the hip again, which had to be a good sign—he got himself to his feet, using walls and furniture to brace against as he searched the room. Susan, releasing Will onto the floor and sliding her tins of apple muffin batter into the oven, joined him, taking a seat on the chair towards which he appeared next headed. Einar stopped short, watching her warily.
“Is there something I can get for you? What do you need?”
“Seem…” He coughed, throat too dry to get the words out, tried again. “Seem to have misplaced my rifle and knife… Sure don’t like to…lose track of such things.”
“No, I would’t think so. Here, have a seat.” Einar sat. Had been about to fall, and didn’t particularly want to do that, much trouble as it was seeming just then to right himself again. Susan brought water, offered it but he shook his head. Liz was there, too, Will on her knee as she sat beside him, and she had an idea. Making sure Einar was watching, she took a steel measuring cup from the kitchen, opened the sliding glass door just far enough to reach an arm out, scooping snow from a drift that had accumulated against the house in the last storm, and not been entirely shoveled away. Einar still following her every move, she set the cup on the woodstove, where it was soon hissing and steaming as the snow began to melt. Reclaiming the cup before the resulting water had a chance to heat up—still contained drifting bits of slush, in fact—she handed it to Einar, who looked doubtful, but only for a moment. He drank, momentarily closing his eyes at the wonder of it, parched throat calling out for more, and when Liz prepared another cup, he drained that as well. Half expected to begin feeling worse, losing consciousness as the additional poison seeped into his system—how it was to have got into the snow, he didn’t know, but Kilgore was a clever one—but instead he found himself feeling more awake, alert and steady than he had at any time since waking. A good thing.
Now, back to the matter at hand. Susan had not answered his question. Well, he supposed in all fairness, he had not so much asked a question as he had made a statement, but still she had not answered, and seemed to be deliberately avoiding the matter. Wasn’t going to do. He fixed her with an incredibly intense gaze, meaning only to try and discern whether or not she might in reality know the answer, but succeeding in making her quite uncomfortable, at the same time. She did not lower her eyes as many would have done, met his gaze.
“I don’t know where he put them. Is that what you were going to ask?”
“Give him a few minutes. He should be back soon.”
“Don’t want to wait.”
“I won’t stop you.”
Which she did not, heading into the kitchen to check her baking as he raised himself laboriously from the chair and resumed prowling about the room in what he knew was likely a futile search for items which Kilgore would have concealed far from prying eyes and easy reach. Wouldn’t have had much choice. It was what he would have done. But irked him, nonetheless, both as a matter of principle and on a much more practical level, as a man in unfamiliar territory and surrounded by potential enemies. Had to find them. Or something which could serve the purpose, in the meantime. Kitchen seemed a good place to start. Nobody would think of hiding a rifle in the broom closet, which made that a likely place. And if not, kitchens always tended to come equipped with knives of various sorts…
Einar did not get very far, his loss of consciousness, Liz and Susan concluded, likely brought on not so much by the lingering effect of whatever was in that bear dart as from the simple exhaustion and lack of nourishment which had been affecting him upon his arrival and which, intentionally or otherwise, he seemed to have been working his hardest to avoid remedying while at the house. Together they lifted him onto the couch, covered him with a quilt and went back to their baking, each silently hoping he might remain asleep until after Bud’s return, so some resolution could be reached to the problem of the missing weapons.